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Quantum Dots May Soon Convert Windows Into Solar Energy Sources

Solar panel technology that has the potential to be placed on windows is coming. New Mexico-based nanotechnology company UbiQD has been wanting to turn our windows into solar generators for years, and they’re finally licensing developments at two universities in Washington. They’ve expanded on luminescent solar concentration (LSC) panels and have made them lightweight and transparent.

The first-ever transparent LSCs were demonstrated at Michigan State University back in 2013. These quantum dots (which is what the “QD” stands for in UbiQD) have the ability to harvest solar energy and they’re able to transform how we think of traditional opaque solar panels. Instead of heavy objects, they are lighter and could even be installed on windows.

Thanks to advancements in a collaborative effort between Western Washington University and the University of Washington, UbiQD will be licensing the new LSC technology. Hunter McDaniel, the founder of UbiQD, can see the future of the product turning into a commercial success.

“We envision a world where sunlight harvesting is ubiquitous, a future where our cities are powered by quantum dot-tinted glass on skyscrapers. UbiQD is making tremendous progress already in translating quantum dots and LSC tech into viable products and a scalable business model.”

What exactly are quantum dots? These are extremely small particles that are able to manipulate light. One of those properties is being able to absorb it. Since the technology has traditionally been linked to toxic materials and high-cost manufacturing, it hasn’t received a lot of attention as a potential solar energy source. However, UbiQD has been looking at quantum dots that are made with cheaper and less toxic material since August 2015.

Last August, UbiQD received a $225,000 grant from the National Science Foundation to further research on quantum dots being solar generators. In theory, they would be able to coat this nanotechnology on windows and it would be able to soak up the sun’s rays. They wanted to take advantage of skyscrapers with massive windows and be able to have those generate power for an entire city.

“This new investment will further important research at UbiQD to strengthen the intersection of solar energy and advanced materials such as nanoparticles,” said Martin Heinrich, US Senator for New Mexico, in a statement after the grant was released. “It’s another great example of how technology developed at our national laboratories can spur industry and create jobs here at home.”

Quantum dots could be a more scalable solution for making use of windows as solar generators. Startup SolarGaps provides a home solution with window blinds having the ability to automatically follow the sun and generate energy. That would be quite an expensive undertaking to install those on skyscrapers.

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